The Speedwerx/Tralo Motorsports/Arctic Cat short-course team had another strong showing this past weekend with another win and three more podiums in the Championship Off-Road season finale at the world-famous Crandon International Off Road Raceway for the 27th Annual Brush Run. The team had the honor to have Pro 2 world champion and current Monster Jam star Todd LeDuc take the wheel of a Wildcat XX for the team.
Challenges posed by rain and mud were one of the biggest storylines of the weekend. The rain started after the team arrived and Friday’s scheduled practice sessions were cancelled. The team faced another challenge on Saturday morning: The LeTourneau family had to leave the event for a family emergency. They would be missed in the lineup for the weekend and left some big shoes to fill as Jack LeTourneau No. 97 was fifth in Pro Stock points and Mike LeTourneau No. 99 was fourth in Sportsman points.
Minutes after discussing the situation with the family, LeDuc walked by Jeremy Houle as he was eating breakfast in downtown Crandon. A quick conversation with LeDuc and an hour later he was test driving the Wildcat XX and committed to driving the No. 97 car for the weekend. He competed alongside Houle’s No. 54 ride in the Pro Stock class. Having LeDuc race was huge for the team.
“It was like all the stars aligned,” said Houle.
Team mechanic Dave Heckman also took the wheel of the No. 99 car joining Jonny Hentges No. 15 and Jake Jorgenson No. 11 in the Sportsman division. With LeDuc and Heckman would serve as emergency substitute drivers for the LeTourneus so all cars were covered for the race.
The rain and muddy track conditions were the biggest challenge on Saturday. LeDuc and Heckman went straight to their main events with no practice laps. All three of the team’s Sportsman drivers started the 10-lap, 29-car main on the front row of the land rush start. Jorgenson was leading the team and running in the top five early in the race with Hentges in the top 10. Hentges pulled off on the fourth lap and Jorgenson on the seventh lap with overheating issues due to mud in the radiator, and Heckman was able to salvage a 19th place finish.
The Pro classes ran under the lights for the first time ever at Crandon with the 12-lap, 25-car Pro Stock main kicking off the evening program. The rain had subsided before the race start, but the drivers still had to deal with a slippery surface and narrow racing groove. A random draw invert set the lineup at the front of the field for a two-by-two rolling start with LeDuc on the inside pole and
Houle on the fourth row outside. LeDuc got the jump off the start to lead early but contact with another competitor forced him out of the groove and back to third. A rollover before the lap was completed led to a complete restart. LeDuc didn’t let that happen again and put a gap on the field and led the pack to the competition caution with Houle running in seventh when the yellow flew. The track conditions changed dramatically as the rain returned under the caution and another yellow after the restart gave the series champion two shots at LeDuc. But, he was not to be denied as he officially led every lap for the first SXS win of his already stellar off-road racing career. Houle struggled with visibility issues after running out of tear-offs but was able to pick up a spot on the last restart to finish sixth.
“The Wildcat XX was insanely fast; it’s like a mini Pro-4! This team is amazing,” said Todd LeDuc.
A much drier track was a welcome sight for everyone on Sunday morning. The Sportsman SXS race ran in the early afternoon after several other races so the track was much closer to what is expected. All three cars lined up in the front row for the land rush start in the 10-lap, 27-car main. At the drop of the green, Jorgenson jumped out to the lead with Hentges close behind. The two raced hard early with Hentges taking the lead from Jorgenson as they came to the flag stand on the first lap, while Heckman was running hard in seventh. They maintained those positions when the competition caution came a lap early, shortening the race to nine laps. After the restart, Jorgenson fell to third but Heckman made some nice passes to move into fourth on the seventh lap. Heckman suffered some damage after getting hit by another driver and dropped out two laps early, and Hentges slipped to second on the last lap with Jorgenson crossing the line right behind him in third.
Late in the afternoon, the 12-lap, 25-car Pro Stock SXS main had LeDuc starting in fourth and Houle in eighth for the land rush start. The drivers quickly found a good pace and made moves early with LeDuc in third and Houle in fifth when the competition caution came out at the completion of the sixth lap. After the restart, LeDuc made a move to the outside for second but couldn’t make it stick. Meanwhile, Houle had moved up to fourth and started putting pressure on LeDuc. They battled hard to the end. On the last turn, Houle dove to the inside and LeDuc hit a bump, got up on two wheels and had to lift. Houle slipped by to finish third and LeDuc came home fifth.
“That was a great race and an amazing battle,” said Houle.
It was a great weekend overall for the team. Having LeDuc race for the team was a huge honor and how impressed he was with the Wildcat XX and the race program gave the team the boost it needed. Both LeDuc and Heckman earned points as emergency substitutes so all five team drivers finished inside the top 10 in season points. In Pro Stock SXS, Jack LeTourneau finished third with Houle in seventh. In the Sportsman class, Hentges finished in sixth, Jorgenson eighth and Mike LeTourneau ninth.
“It was a great season for the entire team; we had several podium finishes. Four out of five cars winning races this year was a great accomplishment,” added Houle.
The team has its eye on a few special events such as the Southern Nationals at Durhamtown Park in Georgia in November, and a 12-hour endurance race at Texplex Park in Texas in December. Stay tuned for more details.
The livestream replay of the Crandon races can be seen on demand. A highlight video from the weekend, a recap with Todd Leduc and Jeremy Houle, and in-car footage with Todd LeDuc can be seen on the Speedwerx YouTube channel.
Team Manager/Driver: Jeremy Houle | firstname.lastname@example.org | 651-982-6020